Polluters will no longer pay

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The present rules are that if you suffer personal injuries as a result of someone's else's negligence; say a motor collision or an incident at your place of work and you are neither insured for such eventualities (few are) and/or don't have the means to privately pay the costs involved in bringing a claim, then a specialist personal injury lawyer, such as Blake Lapthorn, will likely offer to represent you under a Conditional Fee Agreement or CFA.  These contracts are commonly known as 'no win no fee' agreements, but that is on oft described misconception. There are fees involved.  Allow me to explain. 
 
Essentially, under laws introduced back in 1999, your solicitor will only get paid if you win your case.  Win is defined as receiving damages in an out of court settlement or by an award of the court.  In assessing the risks of acting for you, the CFA will include provision for a success fee uplift on their basic fees. Such success fees were permitted in recognition of the risks involved (you could lose) and the fact that your solicitor receives no remuneration from you or the negligent party during the lifetime of the case.  In successful cases, personal injury solicitors offset the success fees they achieve in winning cases against those high risk cases they accept but, occasionally lose, at significant cost.  A balance is met that provides an injured claimant with the access to justice they could not have enjoyed before the introduction of CFA's.  Your solicitor also purchases, on your behalf, a policy of insurance which will indemnify you against losing the claim after the commencement of proceedings.  Some premiums can be expensive but the rule in any insurance underwriting is that you insure all, thus the risk is spread amongst many, rather than the few.
 
If you win your claim and receive damages, your reasonable costs, including the success fee and insurance premium, are paid by the 'polluter' i.e. the person or organisation who caused you to suffer your injuries.   If you lose, you get nothing, neither does your solicitor but provided you have conducted the claim properly, your insurer will pay the costs of your opponent and their insurer.  Ok, few cases reach the courts these days but when a case is lost, the costs can be huge.
 
Now, what will happen is that whilst CFA's will remain, the success fees, created to enable everyone access to the very best legal advice will, instead of being paid by the polluter shall instead, come out of your damages.  The Bill also puts an end to CFA insurance. David Bott, the President of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL), has warned that: "...restricting 'no win, no fee' is a savage blow for patients whose lives may have been shattered by their injuries. The drive to cut costs by forcing injured people to give up part of their compensation to pay legal fees is unfair, unjust and unwarranted. People don't choose to be injured, but when negligence happens, the guilty party – the losing defendant - must surely be held fully to account."
 
My concern is that this restructuring of legal funding will likely force thousands of innocent and often severely injured people to pay from their damages, significant sums in legal fees.  I just hope these changes do not deter many from bringing quite legitimate claims.
 
The Bill is yet to become law but lets assume it will.  I would urge the reader to raise your voice and contact your local MP urgently asking them to challenge this law as it goes through the Houses.  These changes will effect us all.  As long as we continue to drive dangerously, as long as local authorities fail to repair their streets, as long as employers and occupiers of buildings ignore health and safety rules, then people will get hurt, sometimes fatally.
 
Who should pay for that?  You and your family or the 'polluter'?   
 
 
  
 The Justice Secretary yesterday (21 June 2011) published the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill 2010-11.  Contained within the Bill are anticipated new laws dealing with costs in civil claims. 
Senior Solicitor


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